Abuse Survivors, the New Lepers

  • a person who is avoided or rejected by others for moral or social reasons.

Let’s just put this out there.  Abuse survivors are the new lepers to the “Catholic faithful.”

Recently, a Facebook Post reply from the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference to a comment left by  Carolyn Fortney showed that organization’s disdain for the universe of survivors.   Here is the screenshot of the now deleted post:

PCC FB stupidity
Carolyn Fortney’s screen grab

After removal of the pathetic reply above, the PCC issued the following apology/retraction/backtracking attempt:

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference - Home
PCC failed attempt at damage control

If you don’t know about the Fortneys, I strongly encourage you to check out their website and follow them on Facebook at Fortney Family on the Move for Justice.  Of nine siblings in the Fortney family, five were abused by a Catholic Priest.  These brave women came forward and have lent their voices to advocate for change and justice.  They do not deserve the disrespect leveled at them by the PCC.

Screenshot_2019-05-19 Pennsylvania Catholic Conference » Contact
Screen grab from the PCC website

I will assume that the FB reply came from Al Gnoza, the “Communications Director.”  I wonder if he is the one with whom the PCC leadership is “addressing the matter” with?

Before I go any further, I will recommend to Mr. Eric Failing that he fill the Department on Social Concerns Director vacancy soon. You really need someone with some people skills in your organization.  Just a thought!

As for Al Gnoza, a former newscaster dismissed for cause from ABC27, an ABC affiliate in Harrisburg in 2014 for making inappropriate comments.  After a few years at the CBS affiliate in town, he left in 2018 to take his current job with the PCC.  He has a track record of not knowing when to keep his mouth shut.  I am hoping the disciplinary action taken includes Mr. Gnoza packing up and going elsewhere.

As the voice of the PCC, Mr. Gnoza has made it clear that he has disdain for survivors and their families.  That disdain is clearly the position of the PCC as long as they keep this man in their employ as the Communications Director.  This organization, just like the Catholic League, wants survivors to go away, to be silent and to stop calling to task the hierarchy of the church and its minions in the Insurance Lobby, the office of the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.

You can read more about the Facebook exchange in an article in The Inquirer by Angela Couloumbis and Liz Navratil, updated: May15, 2019. Pa. Catholic Conference to clergy sex abuse survivor: ‘Why do you have to troll here?’

This feeling is not limited to organizations lobbying for the church.  It is strongly felt by the “faithful” who also want us to go away.  They often complain that we are just looking to make a few bucks off the church.  That money comes from parishioners.  They have been told, and they believe that services to seniors, young children, and social programs are being impacted to pay off the survivors. They have made us the villains.

Dioceses have conducted services for forgiveness and atonement, but they do not invite survivors and their families.  They bar entry to churches for those who add vocal support for survivors. We are the problem in their eyes.  In my own case, I offered suggestions and support to my alma mater, the University of Scranton’s Task Force on Healing, Reconciliation & Hope. It was made clear in a brief letter from the president of the University and a more polite email from the chair of the Task Force that my offer was not welcome. A clear indicator that I am no longer considered to be part of the University of Scranton community.

Forgive me if I have no sympathy for the PCC, the Catholic Church, or for “the Catholic Faithful” who continue to try to isolate and marginalize survivors.  Just a reminder, folks.  We were the victims of crimes committed by priests and other religious.  Those perps had the support and protection of the hierarchy of the church.  The church continues to benefit from the comfort of organizations like the Catholic League and the PCC who are all about telling you that we, the survivors of the abuse, are the reason that things are wrong in the church.  They say that we are going to bankrupt the church.  I have news for you, they are already morally bankrupt.

UPDATE – 20 May 2019

The spineless leadership of the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference has removed the apology to Carolyn Fortney and other survivors on their Facebook page.  Isn’t it just like a Catholic organization to hide evidence of a problem and act like it never existed?   

A letter from the VAC at the Diocese of Scranton: Independent Survivor Compensation Program

Author’s note: This is my second attempt at this post. I have tempered my approach, but my outrage has not abated.

A half-truth is even more dangerous than a lie. A lie, you can detect at some stage, but half a truth is sure to mislead you for long.”
Anurag Shourie

I have had two restless nights since the letter arrived in my mailbox. My blood runs a little cold when I see the Diocese of Scranton address in the top left corner of an envelope. This missive was from the Victim Assistance Coordinator (VAC) for the Diocese announcing the Independent Survivor Compensation Program (ISCP). I will let you read my letter. I have redacted my contact information. I have enough virulent church apologists blowing up my email, I will not enable them to contact me at my home.

diocese of scranton004 croppeddiocese of scranton005 cropped

I have had some responses from others I have shared this letter with, other members of Robert Gibson’s “Lost Boys.” It seems, without my prompting, they are equally outraged by the message and tone.

I am sure Mary Beth Pacuska, the VAC, was very proud of her work. But then again, she is charged with taking information on victims and aiding the bishop in turning that information into a plan of action to silence, discredit and demean survivors who have dared to stand up to the prelate on Wyoming Avenue. I would recommend a title change that allows you to keep your “VAC” acronym. From this side of the conversation, “Victims Adversary Coordinator” sounds more apropos. Let me know Mary Beth, I am dying to get your opinion (sarcasm intended).

Shall we go through the letter? She starts to auger into the earth with her first paragraph of introduction. “I am privileged to work with victims of sexual abuse suffered as a minor.” You have got to be kidding me!? “Privileged?” From my point of view, it would have been my great privilege to never have had a cause to contact that office in the first place. Work with us? That is laughable. Although I initially spoke with Joan Holmes when she occupied that chair in 2007, it is my experience that the office of the VAC is there to protect the bishop and his minions. Interest in the well being of the victim/survivor has proven to be nothing more than a diocesan sham.

The next two paragraphs of the communication are propaganda. Propaganda wasted on an audience that sees through the fiction of Diocesan action touted because they have suffered not only the original crimes committed against them but through the mishandling, bungling and straight up attacks by the diocese. Spare us the bullshit Ms. Pacuska, we are not buying it, and you look all the more of a diocesan pawn for it.

Finally, in the fourth paragraph, she gets to the point of the epistle. Finally! She announces the ISCP, provides no details at all about the program and punts the problem to the administrators of the Diocesan fund intended to placate survivors like me. The best part of all of this is the nugget in the second to last paragraph of this pathetic piece of prose. “Please be assured that this program is independent of the Diocese, completely voluntary and confidential, and will be handled with respect and in a pastoral manner.” The program is not independent of the Diocese because the diocese is funding it. (Maybe I should say that the parishioners of the Diocese of Scranton are financing it. That is much more accurate.) The Diocese, knowing the true scope of the problem and the estimated number of survivors/victims they have covered up for decades, is trying to get off on the cheap.

The program is “completely voluntary and confidential.” Sure it is! What I read here is a requirement for a confidentiality agreement. Or, more simply put, no transparency or accountability for the actions of bishops or priests who actively covered the sex crimes committed against children. She says the program will be handled with “respect and in a pastoral manner?” Personally, I don’t think the Chancery for the Diocese of Scranton knows the meaning of the word “respect.” Pastoral manner, that thought is ridiculous! If the lies and deceit offered to me by this diocese since I reported what Robert Gibson to me when I was 13 years old at Notre Dame Jr/Sr High School in East Stroudsburg reveals the measure of their “pastoral manner” I am better off without it.  If you wish to know what I want, click this link, I have spelled it out for you.

I have a recommendation for the VAC. Mary Beth, are you listening? Just tell us the facts devoid of all the propaganda and flowery support. Save the half-truths and platitudes for your parishioners. They are still swallowing what you and your bishop are offering.

A Professor Shows the Bishop His Back

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A friend emailed me a link to an article reporting that Professor Barry Kuhle stood up and turned his back on Bishop Joseph Bambera of Scranton during the Bishop’s remarks at the inauguration of the Father Scott R. Pilarz S.J. as the new President of the University of Scranton.  2018-09-27-Scranton_Professor_Protest

The article reported that Professor Kuhle’s sister was sexually assaulted by a temple leader in her pre-teens. She committed suicide in 2007 and the day of the inauguration would have been her 42nd birthday.

Professor Kuhle has called for Bishop Bambera to resign in the wake of the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report.  I would like to add my voice to that call.

Bishop Bambera has admitted to returning Robert Gibson to a parish by order of Bishop James Timlin.  He should have known better.  His defense is that he was following Timlin’s directions.  If he had a moral backbone, he would have turned Gibson over to the police.   Gibson was subsequently caught grooming another boy after Bambera released him back into the Diocese.

Well done, Professor!

Michael Baumann

The University of Scranton, Class of ’82

 

 

The Grand Jury Report Has Been Released

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has released the report on a two-year grand jury investigation into widespread sexual abuse of children within six dioceses of the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania and the systemic cover-up by senior church officials in Pennsylvania and at The Vatican.

The following links are provided:

The Attorney General’s Press Release

A-Report-of-the-Fortieth-Statewide-Investigating-Grand-Jury_Cleland-Redactions-8-12-08_Redacted 

Exhibits from the Grand Jury Report

The Response by the Dioceses

Link to a Survivor’s Video

All of the above links are from the official website of the Pennsylvania Attorney General.

A quick glance at the report revealed that Robert J. Gibson is listed as one of the priests creditably accused, but his case is not part of the write up in the document.  I had a screening interview via telephone when this investigation began, but my situation was not part of the Grand Jury.

Now the Church will wait for this to blow over.  I don’t expect the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania will do the right thing and allow Survivors to call the Diocese to account for their complicity.